2 - 4 Players 1-2 hours per map Ages 14+
Book of Skulls -Slayers of Eragoth (www.bookofskulls.co.uk) is a competitive adventure board game for fans of dungeon crawlers, classic fantasy, and maybe a hint of heavy metal music. Metal music aside, if you like dungeon crawlers, then this one is for you! In the game you control both Slayers and monstrous Demons as you attempt to save and destroy the land of Eragoth!
This is where the game doesn't fair well with interpreting from the electronic PDF currently in its provisional design; we have been reliably informed by Cloudrunner Games that our points have been listened to and that it is currently being re-written (so bear that in mind). One thing I must note is that for such a minimalistic box, there is a lot in it. The maps and components in it all seem really well finished considering it is still in development. What we have been sent is probably the least finished game from a content perspective ever and we still liked the game, especially considering the time it took to set up.
The core elements of the game is the map, and how the story unfolds is pretty awesome BUT what didn't help, I think, was that the rulebook was an electronic PDF. Even reading on an iPhone 13 Max wasn't ideal because of having to refer back to sections all the time (a real rulebook would have helped and been much better!).
The gameplay is not really ground-breaking, but what is great about this is the theme that it oozes with! The encounters as you crawl through this dungeon crawler leave very little to to your own imagination as the storytelling section of the rulebook paints a story through the encounters and decisions you make really well.
Slayers and Demons
During the game, players are on opposing teams. One team first plays their heroic band of Slayers, whilst the other controls the opposing monstrous Demons. After a number turns, teams then swap, with the team who were controlling the monsters then playing their Slayers and the other team the opposing monsters. This swapping continues throughout the campaign. I like this, as it means you have more to do during the game, it increases engagement and gets you into the world and what's going on! No stale play waiting around for the other player to play against the game!
Players navigate across the Overworld using a combination of dice rolls and event cards in addition to any Landmarks, such as a Dungeon or Colony. We were lucky (un) to fall straight into a dungeon on the very first turn (bad luck Sam!).
Each of the 10 Regions of Eragoth has its own map, with their own paths, story, and unique mechanics/objectives.
Combat Whilst on the Overworld, the team controlling the Demons summon them into battle using a currency they earned defeating Demons whilst controlling their Slayers. Slayers also encounter Boss Demons in dungeons and strongholds, whose soul must be captured to reach the final boss, the Skeleton Witch.
The Battle system is turn-based, with one team completing their combat round before the opposing team moves. Between Slayers and Demons, there are over 300 moves to utilise!
Slayers typically excel at certain roles, for example Attacker or Healer, with each having four unique Arts (moves), an Ability and an upgrade item to collect.
Players can also build up bonuses to unleash powerful full team attacks, as well as unlocking much stronger heroes called Guardians, whose stats dwarf that of a Slayer. We were unable to unlock a Guardian on our first game, and were subsequently killed off very quickly. (The tokens to unlock the Guardian need to be bigger or recessed into the board as they fell off way too easily!)
Production - Book of Skulls
For a preview prototype, it is really not that bad. I am notoriously bad for the "ooh shiny and" how pretty this game is!", but this game grabbed my attention through the use of the storytelling and decision process, so much so that I didn't care how tired I was at the time of playing. Sam and I were determined to each take a turn as the heroes and slayers.
So let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Replayability - It is replayable, with over 100 unique characters to play and LOTS of monsters, no two campaigns should be the same! However, there are events in the game that are based on classic dungeon crawler obstacles such as riddle doors. With these, players could easily remember the solution on subsequent playthroughs and thus have less immersion in the overall narrative.
Production Value - Difficult to say with this prototype, BUT the card stock seems pretty good. One point that could perhaps be improved is the synergy of the visual elements (based on prototype), as the artwork on most of the cards and characters provided was very smooth and detailed, whereas the map boards were more like a 16bit Mortal Kombat effect.
Theme - Love the theme. Who doesn't like a dungeon crawler? Really enjoyed how the story elements were integrated with the movement and combat system.
Complexity - We were playing this game late and tired, which probably didn't help. BUT once past the learning curve, we got quicker and it flowed faster. However, potentially not the best choice for more casual gamers or those easily intimated by more complex rules and multiple elements to keep track of.
Rules - Not the best written, but this can easily be fixed, and we have been told the designer is doing it very soon. This may help reduce the otherwise fairly steep learning curve.
Uniqueness - Really not unique from a dice and card combo BUT the theme applied is what makes this game! Who doesn't like a good dungeon crawl? Even better when it comes with METAL music. What is unique is the switching between playing the Monsters and Heroes.
Value - can't comment on this yet, BUT I can see me playing this instead of Talisman every time (and I love Talisman). Could this be the new Talisman?
I am giving this a score of 4/6, it gives me vibes of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain adventure books (this is how I'd imagine the books if they were to convert to a board game, hence the reason why I like it so much!). Your friendly DoaLG Founder - Mr Chris
I enjoyed putting Book of Skulls through its paces with Mr Chris. Despite a fairly steep learning curve due to having quite a lot of mechanics to track, it does become a game that you can settle into. This game is pretty immersive with quite high stakes/threat level, puzzles and encounters. I liked the dual nature of playing your own party of heroes and being the GM and monsters for the other team player. While this can make for a relatively long game (especially if you combine several maps), it is an entertaining and less personal/direct form of player vs player. You don't even have to be a fan of metal music to enjoy the game. While this is one of the inspirations, it is barely referenced in the prototype materials and mainly manifests as a soundtrack written and performed by the creator. While I personally agree with Mr Chris on scoring book of Skulls at a respectable 4/6 I do feel that with just a little polish and/or in another's hands it could score even higher.
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